The Role of Transhumance on Land Use /Cover Changes in Mountain Vermio, Northern Greece: A GIS Based Approach
AbstractTranshumant flocks graze the vegetation of medium and high elevation rangelands during late spring to autumn depending on the geographical area and climatic conditions. This study aimed to assess and interpret the impacts of transhumance decline on the land use/cover on Mountain Vermio, for the period 1985-2009. For many years, this area has received high stocking rates from transhumant livestock. However, during the last 30 years transhumance has been dramatically decreased. Land cover changes have been identified using a post classification comparison approach within a Geographical Information Systems environment. Moreover, the rate and the spatial differentiation of land use/cover were determined by means of the Dynamic Degree Index. According to the results, the acreage of grasslands and grazed open forests has decreased during the study period (3% and 83% respectively), while shrublands demonstrated an opposite trend with an increase of 25%. Furthermore, based on the Dynamic Degree Index, the greatest changes occurred in the conversion of grazed open forests and shrublands, compared to other land use/cover categories. This can be attributed to changes in sheep and goats populations grazing in the area, also related to the dispersion of flocks in local rangelands. Moreover, this article presents the results of a questionnaire survey on transhumant herders. These results, combined with the assessment of changes in the Dynamic Degree Index, reflect the difficulties that farmers face in terms of access to rangelands and their increased awareness regarding the environmental role of transhumance.
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